What happens when a chance to live your dream life turns into a living nightmare instead?
In Last Night in Soho, an aspiring fashion designer is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s, where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer. However, the glamour is not all it appears to be, and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something far darker.
Last Night in Soho Review
An Engaging Story Full of Emotion & Twists
There’s no other way to put it: Edgar Wright hooks you from the start with the opening of Last Night in Soho.
I don’t even feel like I can do the introduction of this film justice. Put simply, the audience is introduced to our main character, Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie), who’s established as the classic country mouse with big city dreams. Ellie is an aspiring fashion designer, obsessed with the bygone aesthetic of the ‘60s. And she’s just landed a life-changing opportunity: the chance to study fashion in London. On paper, this sounds like a story we’ve heard over and over again; but Wright does great work with this setup, juggling exposition and character insight carefully in a way that keeps things interesting and fresh.
Maybe it’s Ellie’s enthusiasm as she dances around her home in a newspaper gown to the Golden Oldies. Maybe it’s the gentle way she treats her grandmother, or her genuine enthusiasm receiving her acceptance letter. Or maybe it’s the way she talks to the ghost of her mother in the mirror, giving us just a hint that this sense of normalcy won’t last. But I was immediately charmed by Ellie and interested in the ride Last Night in Soho was promising to take me on.
Of course, things only get more interesting when Ellie arrives in London. To avoid rooming with the school’s resident mean girl, Ellie seeks out a local bedshare. On her first night in her new place, she dreams a fantastic dream. A dream of Sandie (Anya-Taylor Joy), an aspiring entertainer on the verge of realizing her own biggest dreams. But Ellie doesn’t just dream of Sandie. As she closes her eyes, she actually slips back into the past, living out Sandie’s experiences in the ‘60s as if they were her own.
Which is incredible… when Sandie’s having a good time, that is.
Unfortunately, the glitz and glamour of Sandie’s dream life quickly turns dark and dangerous. Every new evening plunges Ellie back into Sandie’s nightmare of a life, whether she likes it or not. And then those nightmares start bleeding over into Ellie’s present-day reality too.
But who’s going to believe she’s being haunted by ghosts of the past?
A Beautifully Made Film
This movie revels in the visual aesthetic of the ‘60s in the same way Ellie does: with great love and reckless abandon. When Ellie dreams of Sandie, you’ll feel transported through time, too. The music, the sets, the wardrobe—it all paints one immersive, hypnotic picture.
Plus, Last Night in Soho is just a beautifully shot film. I love Wright’s use of mirrors and reflections to show Ellie and Sandie in the same shots; they inhabit both the same world and different ones at the same time. Tight editing and camerawork enhance the thrills and dramatic reveals. On the whole, this is just a well put together film that’s a real joy to experience.
Last Night in Soho: The Hangups
So, where does Last Night in Soho falter? There are a couple places for me the movie misses the mark a bit, though they don’t detract too much from my enjoyment of it.
The biggest for me is the way the film bookends itself with appearances by Ellie’s mother. No spoilers about the details there, but I thought the initial setup would pay off more in the plot of the film, since comparing Ellie’s experience not just to Sandie’s, but to her mother’s, is an ongoing theme in Last Night in Soho. It feels like a missed opportunity to not see Ellie’s mother somewhere in the middle of the story.
A lesser issue is Ellie’s romantic suitor, John (Michael Ajao). It pains me to say this, but he was honestly too nice. Like, so much of a “good guy” it actually seems like a discredit to his character. One or two too many things happen that were clear indicators John should cut Ellie off for his own good. The fact that he didn’t helps Ellie (and the plot), but seems almost as unrealistic as the supernatural elements of the movie.
Finally, I can see how the tone/genre shift in Last Night in Soho could put people off. This is a feature marketed as a horror-thriller… and it does get there. But the film doesn’t start with scares outright. You can probably track the escalation of this film, beginning as a drama, shifting into a thriller, and ending on full-blown horror. For me, the escalation felt natural and kept my interest. But there’s no denying the first act of this movie and the last feel entirely different, and that will be a sticking point for some viewers.
On the whole though, Last Night in Soho is one of my favorite films of the year. It’s beautifully made with a distinct visual aesthetic, follows an engaging story with good twists (again, no spoilers!), and brings together different genre elements in a unique way.
Last Night in Soho premieres in theaters October 29.